Lawn aeration

Why aerate the lawn

Spiking a lawn
Lawn aeration should play an integral part in any lawn care program. A lawn that receives regular aeration is more likely to be in healthy condition.
All soil types are vulnerable to compaction, although heavy clay soils are more prone to this than light sandy soils due to the small soil particles of clay. Lawn aeration is the process of relieving compaction and increasing air space to help promote healthy growing conditions for grass.

Compaction is basically a result of compression placed on the soil particles, which causes a breakdown in soil structure resulting in lack of air. This in turn has an adverse effect on the health of the lawn often resulting in weak grass coverage.

Compaction causes the pore spaces in the soil to become small, thus reducing the amount of air held in the root zone. This inhibits drainage, has a negative effect on rooting, encourages shallow rooted grasses which in turn will reduce drought resistance. Over a period of time lawns can become compact, especially if they are heavily used and receive little or no aeration.

Lack of air also has a negative effect on micro organisms in the soil, which need air to survive. Micro organisms are required to break down the thatch layer and return nutrients to the plant. Overall a lack of air has a detrimental effect on the health of your lawn.

The benefits of aerating the lawn

The purpose of aerating is quite simple, to let air and water into the soil and to relieve compaction.

A healthy well aerated lawn has a number of benefits, these benefits include:

  • An increase in desirable bent and fescue grasses over annual meadow grass. Bents and fescues being easier to maintain, are more drought resistant, require less fertiliser, are more disease resistant (especially against fusarium patch). They produce a better quality lawn (Bents and fescues are the favoured grasses on golf and bowling greens).

  • An improvement in rooting, producing a healthy drought resistant lawn.

  • Encourages micro organisms which are beneficial to soil as they aid thatch breakdown. They are also beneficial in helping with disease resistance as they inhibit the pathogens that causes the disease.

  • Aids irrigation by helping the water go down to the roots and reduces surface run off.

  • If lawn aeration is carried out before top dressing it helps improve the soil structure as the top dressing fills the channels created by the aeration.

  • Can be also beneficial to drainage by creating channels for the water to penetrate and drain away.


When to aerate your lawn

Lawn aeration holes
Lawn aeration opens up the surface of the lawn, this improves airflow within the soil, which is one of the key ingredients to a healthy lawn. Rooting and drainage is improved, the lawn becomes more drought tolerant and thatch build up is controlled. All this adds up to a better growing environment within the soil resulting in healthy turf that can withstand most common lawn problems.
Aeration can be carried out at any time during the year subject to ground and soil conditions. Ideally the soil needs to be slightly moist to get the full benefit from aeration. Avoid aerating during frosty conditions, the obvious reason it that you will damage the grass. Also avoid aerating during periods of very wet conditions if you are using a heavy machine (using a garden fork may be acceptable for localised areas prone to flooding.

Generally speaking it is best to avoid aerating during droughty periods during the summer. However shallow spiking using solid tines may benefit irrigation by helping the water to go into the soil, where it is most needed. Avoid any deep slit tining during the summer ,as this can cause the ground to open up if it turns very dry.

The ideal time for aeration is during the spring and autumn as part of the respective lawn care programs. Aerating during these periods means the aeration can be incorporated with other operations which compliment each other such as overseeding and top dressing.

The different types of lawn aeration

Hollow tine - core aeration tines

The above image shows a lawn aerator fitted with hollow tines. Hollow or core tines actually remove a small plug of thatch / soil from the ground. This type of aeration is very effective at relieving soil compaction. It is also beneficial prior to overseeding and top dressing, as the holes created by hollow tining allow more seed and soil into the soil profile than other types of aeration.

There are a few different types of lawn aeration, with many different implements and machines on the market. We will explain the different types of aeration and the different benefits that each have. They are as follows:
  • Spiking or Solid Tining: Probably the most common type of aeration on a lawn due to the fact that most people have a garden fork. However there are machines available for this task. Spiking is particularly useful during the summer months prior to irrigation to help the water penetrate into the soil profile. Spiking is preferred to slitting in the summer due to fact after slitting, the slits are prone to opening up if it is dry.

  • Slitting: Slitting is not as common as spiking for lawn aeration however there are benefits of slitting over spiking. They can generally penetrate deeper than spikes and also have the added benefit of root development as slitting prunes the roots. Deep slitting would be used in the autumn and winter months.

  • Hollow Tining or Core Aeration: This process involves the removal of cores from the lawn. The main benefits if this method would be to remove thatch. This is also very beneficial before top dressing as it leaves larger holes (which stay open than other types of aeration. Therefore it is easier to work in top dressing through the holes and into the root zone. More info on core aeration.


Lawn Aerators

Weibang professional lawn aerator

Yeoman lawn spiker
Yeoman hollow tine fork